UF arrests six for protesting Gulf War chief's honorary doctorate
On March 26th the University of Florida awarded retired General H. Norman Schwarzkopf an honorary doctorate in public service. UF President John Lombardi referred to him as a champion for the health care of children and environmental conservation. He also cited Schwarzkopf as a hero, genius and visionary leader who has set world standard for others to follow. Lombardi's praise was followed by a standing ovation from deans,vice-presidents, former Presidents, and an audience made up mostly of military personnel and administrators. When Schwarzkopf approached the podium to deliver his acceptance speech, six local peace activists, myself included, unfurled a banner which read, "What perversion of sensibility has an institution of higher learning teaching the methods of mass murder? The ROTC has no justifiable role on campus." We also chanted "Schwarzkopf lies, and Gulf vets die."
Without warning we were seized, cuffed and taken away. I hope after reading the following interviews with two members of Gainesville's Veterans for Peace you will understand why we felt it our duty to speak out at the ceremony honoring Schwarzkopf:
Jerry Williamson: "When I recently heard that General Norman Schwarzkopf was coming to the University of Florida to be presented an honorary doctorate, for public service, I was very surprised. The closest parallels in history were during World War Two at the height of the Japanese conquest in China and South East Asia. Many of their generals were also awarded similar public recognition. The same was true with the German generals during their great successes. There was general cooperation among the leadership both in the military and the government, in academia and especially in the corporate sectors of the military industrial complex. Since General Schwarzkopf's retirement from the military his connection with corporate interests have become very evident. He serves on the governing boards of many corporations, including Remington Arms and Ford-Wagner Securities. President John Lombardi stated that the reason for the honorary degree was because of General Schwarzkopf's environmental and humanitarian service, which he has rendered in the years since his retirement from the army. This is very shallow and superficial and glosses over General Schwarzkopf's long established record in the military, which has built him a reputation of dishonesty, destruction and death. Not only of the enemies who the Army sent him to fight but also his own men, under his command...
"One of the most striking incidents that I can recall in which General Schwarzkopf participated in deliberate acts to cover up American wrong doing and misconduct during the war was the massive oil spill in the Persian Gulf. The American media widely published that this oil spill was the result of Saddam Hussein deliberately turning on oil pipelines and discharging the oil into the Arab-Persian Gulf. Returning crew members from the USS Ranger, an aircraft carrier stationed in the Gulf during the time, stated that the oil spill resulted from American bombing damage on the main offshore oil storage terminal off of Kuwait City. This raid happened several days before the announcement in the media that Saddam had turned on the oil pipeline. There was no doubt in the crewmen's mind that the oil spill resulted from the damage of American bombing raids."
Bill Warrick: "...Schwarzkopf lied to Congress regarding his knowledge of the Kamisiyah chemical dump that was blown up at the end of the Persian Gulf War. [Schwarzkopf stated: "The first time I ever heard of Kamisiyah was in 1996 when it was first announced by the Department of Defense, and nobody was more surprised than I"] That dump contained chemicals that were purchased from the United States during the Eighties and sold to the Iraqis by George Bush and Ronald Reagan. At that time, they were at war with the Iranians, and [Bush and Reagan] apparently wanted them to use the chemical weapons against the Iranians. Otherwise why would they sell it to them? So this dump was blown up to cover evidence because if it had gotten out that the U.S. sold these weapons to them then it would really look bad..."
These lies fueled the super-patriot fervor which followed the war by leading the American public to believe that the war produced virtually no American casualties. The problem with this view was that many veterans were coming home, getting sick, and inexplicably dying. It was only due to the efforts of Gulf War veterans in Georgia, who filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (N-B-C) incident logs kept by Schwarzkopf's aides that the truth got out to the public. The eleven-page document released by the Pentagon, which only covered seven days of the war, documents dozens of chemical incidents including fallout which occurred from the Allied bombing of Kamisiyah. The logs also reveal discoveries of Iraqi chemical munitions dumps, chemical attacks on Saudi Arabia, and chemical injuries to U.S. GI's. These N-B-C logs from Central Command were read by Schwarzkopf every day. He had knowledge of incidents of chemical and biological exposure throughout the war. Schwarzkopf's deceptive testimony makes him directly responsible for the difficulties and frustrations Gulf vets have faced in finding out more about the causes of their ailments.
Another incident that involved the use of chemical agents occurred on the road to Basra when a column of Iraqi vehicles were bombed from the front and back ends melting glass and steel and charring bodies, and then strafed by F-14 and "Warthog" fighter planes. This act represents a major war crime.
Bill Warrick: "...What you had there were retreating troops. Retreating troops are supposed to be given quarter, based on the Geneva Convention. They were not given quarter. They were incinerated! They also were apparently gassed as well. There is a Gulf war veteran, a member of Vets for Peace, who lives in the area. She is the only Gulf veteran known so far who has in her medical records specifically that she has a progressive neurological illness related to nerve agents. She was in the clean-up detail, which cleaned up the bodies that were on the road to Basra. She is deteriorating daily...
"The other major war crime was when eight thousand Iraqi troops who were attempting to surrender were buried alive, by U.S. bulldozers. The U.S. had intelligence information prior to the start up of the shooting war from deserters that the Iraqi conscripts were not going to fight. There were no real fights in the war. All the Iraqi troops just basically gave up. These troops were just buried alive and that is a major war crime, and also violates the Geneva Convention.
"Another item was the bombing in Baghdad and other areas of water treatment plants... health facilities, [and electrical power plants] which has caused a great spread of disease among the Iraqi people and death to mostly children and infants because of diarrhea. They cannot get potable water. This is also a violation of the Geneva Convention... If General Schwarzkopf was really concerned about children then he wouldn't have allowed the bombing of those water treatment facilities, which have since killed several thousand children."
Also related to the Allied bombing raids on Baghdad, the Czechs and French reported that Allied chemical alarms were triggered. Targets of the bombing raids included chemical and biological weapon sites. Schwarzkopf stated that the alarm reports were "bogus."
Bill Warrick: "In addition, if Schwarzkopf were really worried about children, he would not have left all the depleted uranium that is lying around in the Iraqi desert, the Southern part of the country, in the area of Basra. The incidence of childhood leukemia has skyrocketed in that area because... [Iraqi] children play with this depleted uranium shrapnel, which is just lying around.
"Another thing about the depleted uranium is that it has caused some of the Gulf War illness. A lot of the troops got exposed to depleted uranium dust and fumes during incidents of friendly fire when their own vehicles were hit, and also when they climbed over Iraqi vehicles that had been hit by depleted uranium shells."
Why were these acts not considered when assessing Schwarzkopf's public service record? Over 200,000 Iraqi people were killed as a result of Operation Desert Storm, and in the seven years since, economic sanctions have taken the lives of 5% of the Iraqi people, a near genocide. The reason is because trans-national corporate funding is becoming the lifeline of the University. Those who are increasingly funding our 'institutes of higher education' are the same class of people for whom wars in the Gulf and counter insurgency efforts throughout the world are fought. In return for its funding, the University is assigned a very particular role. That role is to provide the rationale for the largest welfare system in the world-the U.S. military-industrial complex. The system, which critics have called 'Socialism for the rich' and 'AFDC' (Aid For Dependent Corporations) relies on huge public subsidies to bolster research and development, marketing and trade to help generate corporate profit within the international weapons, high technology and information industries. The University does this through the substance of its curriculum, supportive scholarly work, public statements by professors as 'experts' and defenders of the status quo, and bestowal of academic honors upon those who have contributed to the preservation of the military industrial complex, such as General Schwarzkopf.
Finally, the trans national corporate class funding of the University insures that UF, as an institution, will be fundamentally racist. In legitimizing for the corporate world the aggressive acts of its military protectors against the Third World, the University also legitimizes the position that people of color don't count as human. You can lay a claim to their natural wealth, make war on their children, poison their air and pollute their waters and still be recognized as an exemplary public servant.
Please don't allow yourself to be fooled; Schwarzkopf was not being awarded a doctorate for his token acts of charity for American children. Countless numbers of people right here in Gainesville do more every day to serve their community than Schwarzkopf ever has. Schwarzkopf was recognized and honored for his service in the maintenance of trans national corporate interests for which the murdering of people of color in order to maintain economic and cultural dominance has never posed a moral dilemma. A brass band playing anthems of the armed forces, a standing ovation from top UF administrators and a parade of UF's Army, Airforce, and Navy-Marine Corps ROTC units must have certainly comforted UF's big corporate donors.
The demonstration outside the ceremony for Schwarzkopf was organized by Veterans for Peace, and was joined by grassroots organizers from the Civic Media Center, Free Radio Gainesville, and the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice. Those arrested were Howard Rosenfeld, Sara Zia Ebrahimi, Christine Magee, Gil Marshall, Bruce Gagnon and myself. We were booked for disrupting a school function, a second-degree misdemeanor, and our bail was set at $250. We spent the whole day in jail, were never asked any questions and were never read our rights. We are all now awaiting court notification for our first court appearance. I hope the county tries to press charges against us. It will give us the opportunity to tell why we protested to the members of the jury.
For more information on Gulf War Syndrome, war crimes committed during the Gulf War, and the impact of economic sanctions on the people of Iraq, visit the Civic Media Center or contact Veterans for Peace at 495-9289.
Those interested in organizing a show of solidarity for the trial of the 6 arrested please contact Julie Netzer at 335-5827.
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